New Cover for an historical novel: The Arrow Chest
11th August 2013
The Arrow Chest has enjoyed a bit of a make-over in recent days, including a slight alteration to the cover. I'll take this opportunity, therefore, to tell you a little about the art-work and what it means.
One of the great luxuries of being self-published is having total liberty over what goes onto the cover of the book as well as what happens inside. The cover can, therefore, reflect the depths (if there are any) of the story. It can suggest any hidden levels of meaning to be negotiated. And it can act as a kind of map, too. Something by which the reader can anticipate the various twists and turns that might lie ahead.
Anyway, without further ado, here is the cover itself:
The neo-Victorian novel 'The Arrow Chest.'
The central image is of ‘Daphne’ – the heroine of the story, a Gothic Romance set in Victorian England. It represents the painting in oils being produced at the time by the main protagonist Amos Rosselli. He is an artist struggling to find his own style amid the fading glories of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Daphne is his favourite model. And he has resolved to render her as her namesake from ancient Greek mythology. Daphne was a nymph admired and pursued by Apollo. He, meanwhile, was the god of poetry and music, of archery and the games.
In the myth, in order to save herself from violation, Daphne called upon the gods to transform her into a laurel tree. Amos has painted her at the point of metamorphosis, assailed by a storm of golden laurel leaves. Her clothing is of an indeterminate era, an evening gown with a cuirass bodice, a classic style based on the shape of armour. She is shielding herself from the inevitable onslaught that seems to be her destiny. It is a destiny, moreover, that she appears to accept with a silent and courageous dignity.
Laurel with its distinctive, arrow-shaped leaves has, since the time of the ancient Greeks, been associated with Apollo. After being thwarted in his pursuit of Daphne, he ordained that, in homage to her, the laurel would henceforth always be a symbol of honour. So right through to this day we still place a wreath of laurel upon the heads of our heroes or those who are victorious at the games.
We have the title of 'Laureate' as an honour in the arts, also. The 19th-Century poet, Tennyson, for instance, who puts in a couple of cameo appearances in the novel, was Poet Laureate to Queen Victoria. In this case, however, the honours are not about to crown the head of the unfortunate Daphne, but are instead claiming her body. They are wrapping themselves around her. She is also holding onto her head, as if to protect herself, and perhaps to keep the head on its shoulders - since her life in this story is intimately bound up with that of the 16th century Tudor Queen Anne Boleyn who was beheaded in 1536 and buried in an arrow chest.
To the sides of the image, we therefore find two wrought-iron gates. These feature Tudor-rose motifs within the tracery. The laurel leaves, meanwhile, appear to rise up from the ground through these gates. It suggests a portal being opened into times past. All this fits well with the Tudor/Victorian relationship between the characters of the novel. A beautiful young Victorian woman (Daphne) pursued and married by a powerful and wealthy industrialist (Lord Olivier Bowlend).
The true love of Daphne's life, however, is Amos - the romantic artist, and a figure, as his name would suggest, who is governed purely by love. The arrow-shaped leaves also remind us that the courtship of Anne Boleyn by king Henry was initially one in which she participated only with reluctance. Henry pursued her relentlessly in a lengthy courtship - as a huntsman would his quarry (the hunt being a metaphor for sexual desire in Tudor times).
The honour bestowed upon Anne, therefore, was a dubious one. It merely valued her body as a vehicle for bringing forth a desperately needed male heir for the Tudor dynasty. When this failed to materialise, Anne was doomed, just as the nymph Daphne was doomed the moment Apollo set eyes on her.
The reason Apollo was so smitten, incidentally, and also why Daphne was so repulsed by him was the result of a trick played upon them by Cupid (or 'Eros' the mischievous and diminutive god of love with his bow and arrow). Cupid made special, magical arrows, some tipped with gold, some with lead. The gold ones would inspire lust, the lead ones revulsion for whosoever the victim first set eyes upon after being hit. One day, Cupid let fly with the gold ones towards Apollo, but with the lead ones towards Daphne. The result was the legendary mismatch - along with all its tragic consequences.
This aspect of the myth is referred to in the corner strips of the cover. These show the elm wood of the arrow chest into which Anne Boleyn's body was interred, along with painted inlays of Cupid bows and laurel wreaths. The crescent moon, meanwhile, in the upper left corner, has always been the symbol of the bow, and is associated with Apollo and Artermis, the mistress of the hunt.
Three stories in one, therefore, exploring the psychology and the dynamics of the eternal love triangle that has existed always throughout all of time.